Speed Brawl is a game that caught my attention from its visual design alone. There’s something very Toriyama about the characters, with their sharp-edged noses and rough feel. Beyond that though, I knew nothing of this game until it came time to review it.
Set in an (obviously) alternate timeline Great Britain, the story and gameplay both revolve around the idea of a “Lunar War” in the 1800’s that birthed the sport of Speed Brawl.
The idea is to run a course filled with enemies and defeat them all as fast and as stylishly as possible, whilst stringing together combos, using the environment to aid in both your attacks and traversal and to just generally kick some alien arse.
Gameplay wise, this equates to what feels like an awkward hodge-podge of Sonic The Hedgehog and Streets Of Rage. You’re trying to platform your way to the goal with great speed, but constantly have to stop and clear a screen of enemies in mini-arena scenarios.
This results in what can only be described as a very contradictory and uncomfortable gameplay loop. Players are encouraged to be as efficient as possible when it comes to defeating enemies, but the floaty controls and an erratic sometimes smooth, sometimes choppy performance did nothing to aid in the precision demanded by the game.
There’s an interesting inventory system that allows you to outfit and equip your characters with new gear found through completing missions or through the in-game store. Gear adds buffs and stat bonuses. But from my short time with the game, I found it to be fairly pointless.
One thing I did enjoy was the emphasis on different playable characters. Each one felt at least somewhat different to control, both in a platforming and a fighting sense, due to having unique moves and different sprite sizes.
With that being said, I found myself putting the controller down on more than one occasion and wondering “who is this game for?” As I’ve stated already, the game feels like a mix of two genres that, at least for me personally, don’t gel well.
I found that the game was ironically at it’s best during the pole race missions where there were no enemies in stages and the goal was to simply hit a certain number of checkpoint flags on your way to the end.
Similarly, I imagine the game would be equally as fun if it were a simple brawler. It really is the combination of these two genres, switching mindsets between them at a moment’s notice and the sheer perfection the game demands that kills the experience for me. I feel bad at this game, and that, in turn, takes away any fun I was having.
Ultimately, I have a great deal of respect for Speed Brawl. From an artistic standpoint, the visuals are extremely well done, the music is a superb, energetic presence that peps you up. The gameplay IS solid but unfortunately didn’t connect with me in the amount of time I was willing to give it.
If I ever come back to it, I’ll be sure to post an updated piece as and when it happens.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*